The Tie That Binds


My sister came to visit me this past month. I think we spent more time together than we have in years, perhaps had more candid conversations than we’ve had, ever. There were quite a few incidents where people asked us who’s older, which always made me ecstatic as I am and always will be 13 years older. But in the end it’s not the convergence of how we look in age, but the fact that after years of being in very different stages of life, we’ve finally grown to a point where we can be like sisters.

It’s not easy to have a baby sister when you’ve made it to junior high as a single child. Even worse when you’ve always been the baby in all your social circles. In elementary school, I was notorious for running out of class as soon as the bell rang, and throwing my backpack to an older classmate whose mom told him to take care of me as I was the youngest person in class. Imagine going from my princess lifestyle to having to change diapers while all my classmates were just getting to the stage of being wild teenagers. But I was an obedient child who knew how hard life was for my first generation immigrant parents, and grudgingly accepted my fate of “early parenthood.”

That’s what I had been, a parent, rather than a sister. I remember taking her to the hospital for the first time, holding her giant body (she was a fat baby) with my puny arms (I was a scrawny 13 year old) and going up to the reception to ask for directions. The receptionist assumed she was my daughter, and I was too indignant and shocked to correct her. We were never able to play together, except for days when I played with her like a toy as many cute babies tend to suffer. When she made it to elementary school I was finally freed from most babysitting duties, and enjoyed my freedom to the extreme by pretty much not being home. The most sisterly thing we would do would be going to watch the newest Pixar movie, which, to be perfectly honest, was more for my own enjoyment than hers. When I came back home after college, she had become a rebellious teenager, so I took on the role of the chastising parent again, saying things such as “when I was your age” as if that line ever worked for me.

And now here we are. She just finishing her first year of college and me ten years out of school. We are quite different, having spent our childhoods in different countries and very much different circumstances. Most people will say we don’t even look alike as sisters. In college I was a conservative church girl who lived at home and spent her weekends with her youth group. I would have never gotten a tattoo. Still, she reminds me a bit of when I was her age, shy at first but quick to join the festivities with the slightest encouragement. Seems to be easily influenced but with principles strong enough to drive the big decisions. We love a good bargain but hate bargaining. We are careful with our hearts, and hide curiosity in our souls.

In the end it doesn’t matter at all, whether we are similar or different. We are not bound by blood, but by the time we shared under the same roof, the love we received from our parents, and the comfort of knowing that there’s someone who would always be there and always care, despite the years and distance between us. We are sisters, and that’s one more thing I can be thankful for everyday.


  1. First time to know you have a sister, nice pic!

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